Cara Noyes announced plans to bring a shared co-working space, The Hilltop Co-op, to Hillsboro at Imagine Hillsboro Technology Committee's most recent Tech Night on Wednesday, Jan. 22, at the Opera House Brewing Company.
The informational meet-and-greet was organized by Dustin Jones, head of the committee and newly appointed Imagine Hillsboro president. The popular tech nights cover a variety of technology related topics and offer networking opportunities in an informal environment.
It was at a similar event, the Small Business Forum held by Hillsboro Chamber of Commerce last November, that Noyes was propelled to turn her idea of creating a co-working space into an actuality
"Bringing a shared workspace to the area is something I have wanted to do for a long time. I had been working on a business plan on my own when I heard about the Small Business Forum," said Noyes."I mentioned the idea to (Hillsboro Chamber treasurer) Abigail Billington during the networking portion of the event and she introduced me to the chamber director, Kaitlyn Fath, and Hillsboro's community planner, Jonathan Weyer. They loved the concept and, along with Dustin Jones, have been instrumental in helping me make The Co-op a reality."
Already popular in large cities, the membership based work spaces are geared towards freelancers, remote workers and other independent professionals. The communal setting champions innovation by allowing different people with unique skills and talents to connect and collaborate.
The idea is that co-working spaces extend far past work areas, they are places where individuals naturally socialize and learn from each other. Unlike a traditional office, co-working spaces consist of members who work for a range of different companies, ventures and projects. This variety in members means that coworkers have unique skill sets that they can teach to other members.
Shared work spaces not only provide a physical workspace for less capital, but naturally create a collaborative environment and support system for individuals who would otherwise be working in isolation. With the city fully geared towards growth, Noyes' vision to create a co-working space in Hillsboro comes at the perfect time.
"The Co-op will be open to businesses and entrepreneurs from all industries, at all levels of development, from freelancers working at home to start ups with little revenue for a space of their own," Noyes explained. "Independent workers are expected to rise to 40 percent in 2020; Montgomery County should be prepared to accommodate this shift. The Co-op is about bringing independent workers together, but it is also about laying a strong foundation for local entrepreneurs and supporting their endeavors. We want our local businesses to thrive, but we also want them to stay."
While shared co-working spaces are on the rise, The Hilltop Co-op will be the only shared business space within a 40 mile radius of Hillsboro. Regional areas that have jumped on the shared space bandwagon, include The Incubator in Springfield, Innovate Springfield, The Highland Business Incubator and The Lodge in Edwardsville, which is quickly approaching its maximum capacity; a positive indication that the idea is a successful one.
Bright, charismatic and energetic, Noyes is the perfect person to spearhead the new venture in the county. The Litchfield resident will take a position as executive director of the Hilltop Co-op.
The Hilltop Co-op's executive director, has always been drawn to jobs where she could make a positive impact. She began her career as the executive director for the Watershed Nature Center, a non-profit nature conservation in Edwardsville. Noyes then took on a full time teaching job. She is also a national board certified health and wellness coach.
The mother of three small boys, Noyes is more than experienced in organizing chaos and meeting unexpected needs as they arise. She also has strong ties with the county. Noyes attended schools in Chatham, where she lived with her mother, Corrina Griffiths, who now lives in Litchfield. However, she spent a fair amount of her childhood in Hillsboro with her father and step-mother, Bob (deceased) and Kim Noyes.
“I am really excited to start my business in Montgomery County, where I have so many family members and so much support.”
One advantage of co-working spaces is the flexibility to rent only what is needed. The Hilltop Co-op will offer tiers of membership, with a variety of services dependent on membership level.
The first level will offer basic services. It is geared towards freelancers and individuals who want to get out of the house and into a more structured work environment a few days a week, but do not need a dedicated work space. At the basic level, members will have access to a collaborative space with shared tables and resources. The second level offers members their own dedicated desk space, where they would be able to leave their items from day-to-day. These spaces will be in an open format where members will work alongside each other. The third level is for those looking for their own private offices.
General member benefits include 24-hour membership access with virtual reception, access to CTI internet, printing and phone services, coffee, beverages and healthy snacks, resume writing services, and writing and editing critiques. Members will also receive area discounts for goods and services. Membership fees are still being determined.
The Hilltop Co-op will also offer business incubator services. Developed with start-ups in mind, these members will receive more hands-on services including help with financing, developing business plans, business coaching and professional mentorship opportunities.
Noyes envisions The Hilltop Co-op offering networking and educational events often. The non-profit will include a conference room with presentation and virtual meeting services, that can be used by members and rented by local businesses, groups and organizations. Naturally bent towards wellbeing, Noyes' vision includes a studio space, ideal for independent instructors looking to offer services such as yoga, meditation or painting classes.
While the Hilltop Co-op's permanent location is still in the works, a pop-up co-working space will be set up at The Opera House Brewing Company in Hillsboro beginning Tuesday, Feb. 18. The co-working space will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Tuesday. Work spaces will be allotted by reservation. Those interested may reserve a space online at www.thehilltopco-op.com/events, or by contacting Noyes via email at email@example.com.